Joey L‘s Cradle of Mankind photography series was shot in Ethiopia’s Omo Valley and features portraits of the various tribes that inhabit the area – a deeply moving, visual homage to the tribal peoples of Ethiopia, the birthplace of Homo sapiens.
During his time in the country, Joey L. lived and learnt the different customs of each tribe while capturing individual portraits of them, tribes that are now in constant danger of disappearing forever. The artist said in an interview two years ago that it was his interest in anthropology that led him to Africa and had this to say:
but the ones I’ve been paying attention to lately are the, I suppose what you’d call vanishing ones…the cultures that are on the verge of extinction, tribes that are threatened by progress and losing their language and losing their ways of life that they’ve sustained for thousands of years.
Joey L. took a new and distinctly modern approach to his photo documentary series by deliberately using studio lightings as he felt that photo documentaries of tribes people often lead to the subjexts becoming ‘overlooked when they are depicted in… black-and-white…as noble savages, as unchanged people’.
His portraits also refuse to show the tribes as ‘lost tribes’ being forced into a western world as is often the case with these sorts of projects and instead focusses on celebrating their rich and ancient cultural heritage. There was no assumption that the tribes people live in isolation, some western influence is clear, whether in the form of an assault rifle shouldered by a hunting tribesman or a Nike T-shirt that may have been part of a Goodwill clothing drive.
It’s a beautiful series and if you’re in the LA area in August you can see some of the prints at Stephen Cohen Gallery. The exhibition goes on until 4th August 2012.
Via Beautiful Decay
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